Robotic cats and distraction sleeves helping people with dementia

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A trial using robotic cats with a resident in a local Essex care home has made such an impact, Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group has worked with Thurrock Council to purchase more to support people affected by dementia.

Maisie from Carolyne House Care Home

Maisie from Carolyne House Care Home

It is well known that pets often soothe people and make a person happy with a sense of purpose, Dementia patients frequently become agitated, anxious and frustrated and could benefit from a pet, but would have difficulty in managing the safe care of a real animal. Research has shown that an effective, drug free way to soothe a dementia patient is to give them a soft toy they can interact with.

Introducing the dementia robotic cat. This item is sold by an American company and it has shown to provide comfort for people living with dementia. It’s a battery powered cuddly fake cat that purrs, meows and moves. It also responds to touch when its petted and hugged. During this Covid emergency where people are unable to visit their relatives, they provide much needed comfort.

Mark Dorado, Community Mental Health Nurse within the Older Adults Wellbeing Team commented;
“Our patient used to be very agitated and unsettled, but the cat has worked miracles, they seem much calmer.”

Irene Lewsey, Head of Mental Health Transformation and Commissioning for Mid Essex CCG said:
“We know that for people with dementia having something to focus on, who reacts to them in a positive way can be hugely beneficial and calming. We had pleasure in offering this robotic cat option to an agitated patient in a care home, which has proven to be a success.

“We are now investing in further robotic cats for other patients with dementia in homes across south Essex.”


Cllr James Halden, Cabinet Member for Children and Adult Social Care, said:
“I am delighted that this initial trial with the Thurrock CCG has made such an impact that we are able to help more of our residents who are living with dementia.

“Strengthening the wellbeing of those living with dementia in Thurrock, particularly during this time when COVID-19 has meant that many people are potentially alone for extended periods of time, is vital. It has been proven that pets can reduce the effects of dementia, such as anxiety, depression and loneliness, and we hope that dementia sufferers living in our borough will be comforted and benefit from the companionship of these therapeutic robotic cats.

“We will continue to work with the Thurrock CCG to ensure that dementia patients living in Thurrock get the vital support and care that they require.”

In addition to the ‘cats’, further work has been done to support people going into hospital with dementia by getting community knitters to make Twiddle Muffs, Lap Blankets and Aprons. These items are given to patients to keep and offer something to keep them distracted and less distressed. 60 have been made and distributed so far, patients get to keep them.

Each Robocat and Twiddle muff is for single patient use only.

To help in the quest to knit further Twiddle Muffs, contact your local CCG to check out where to send them.

Maternity app that’s a ‘UK first’ rolled out across Essex to give pregnancy support and advice

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A ground-breaking maternity app that provides women with seven-days-a-week access to secure direct chat and trusted information from registered midwifery staff is now available to women booked to give birth at Basildon, Southend or Mid Essex hospitals.

Called Maternity Direct, it’s the first software of its kind in the UK. The app will allow women to access support during the current pandemic without leaving home.

Set up for non-urgent enquiries, the Maternity Direct app ensures pregnant women have swift access to advice from local midwives without an appointment or even a telephone call. A record of the digital chat is stored in the secure application and on Trust servers.

With up-to-date information and a midwife to hand, women can access non-urgent support and advice when they need it. It can also reduce the need for non-urgent appointments, saving women time while protecting appointments for those women who require closer monitoring.

It was developed by midwives from Basildon and Thurrock Hospital who partnered with software developer Acadiant Limited to create the app. It is now being rolled out at Southend and Mid Essex hospitals this week, across the newly-merged Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, highlighting how this month’s merger of the three hospitals is improving the sharing of innovation and expertise for the benefit of patients.

Since August more than 5,000 women have used Maternity Direct to ask questions or seek reassurance from midwives at Basildon and Thurrock Hospital. Nearly 80% of women chatting said they would have used another NHS service if the app wasn’t available.

Feedback from women who have already been using it in Basildon has been hugely positive.

One local woman who used the app during her pregnancy said: “I was approached to test the app at an antenatal clinic. I always used Facebook for non-urgent queries and, as midwives are very busy, I didn’t always get an instant reply. This app is much better, really easy to access and the chat feature is a great way to connect quickly with my midwife.  I recommend this app to all mums-to-be.”

Chief nursing officer Diane Sarkar said: “This truly is a fantastic innovation which supports women throughout their pregnancy, not only providing a more streamlined service to them but also improving the delivery of care by staff. Hospital and Acadiant staff have worked so hard developing this app, so it is fantastic to see such positive feedback.”

Pregnant mums choosing their care at Basildon, Southend or Mid Essex hospitals will need to fill in a maternity self-referral form before they are given access to the app:

NHS Still Here For You, No Matter What

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4 May 2020

NHS Still Here For You, No Matter What

NHS Here for you

 Health leaders across mid and south Essex are reminding patients that GP services, pharmacies, NHS 111, out-of-hours services and emergency departments are all still available to patients.

Diane Sarkar, Chief Nursing Officer, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Whilst it is really important to follow the government guidance to stay home during this period, it can be confusing to know what to do when you are feeling unwell.

“We need to ensure people are still accessing help, particularly with serious illnesses as these conditions have not gone away just because of coronavirus. NHS 111 online and by phone, hospitals and GPs are still providing the same level of care they have always done.

“It can be very dangerous to put off getting seen as you can put yourself at risk of late diagnosis of things such as cancer, heart attacks and stroke.

“We have noticed that children in particular seem to be presenting less, and we are urging parents to make sure they are using the right service for their child if they are displaying worrying symptoms.”

Access to your local GP may initially be by telephone as GP practices are still advising patients to only attend in person if they are specifically asked to. Surgeries across mid and south Essex will be offering video and phone consultations for those who are not asked to attend in person.

Patients should still dial 999 in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

For further advice on how to best use the NHS visit

Jennifer Marshall, Head of Nursing for Medicine from Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust has supported this campaign with a short video which is being shared on social media, watch her advice here:


Notes to Editors

The five CCGs across mid and south Essex have worked together with clinicians from the hospitals to support the Government’s national message about the NHS being here for you when you need it. A collection of videos are being produced from different parts of the NHS system, including GPs and nurses to make sure people are aware that they can and should still access help if they need it.

Health and care worker COVID-19 testing available across mid and south Essex

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An expanded COVID-19 testing service is now available for key workers across mid and south Essex. This will mean that staff members, or members of their household with symptoms of COVID-19 can, if they work in essential roles, be offered the opportunity to be tested.

Nationally, clinicians working in the following services were the first to be given priority access to testing:

  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Departments
  • Ambulance services

Locally, across mid and south Essex, testing is now being offered to other essential (clinical and non-clinical) staff involved in caring for our population, including those working in primary care, community and mental health services, hospices, local authorities, care homes, domiciliary care and volunteers.

Tests will be offered, by appointment only, at three locations across mid and south Essex. There will be capacity for 300 tests per day, rising to 500 tests per day in the coming weeks.

Anthony McKeever, Interim Joint Accountable Officer for Mid and South Essex NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “We know that staff in front-line roles are working incredibly hard and are committed to the care of their patients and residents.

We hope that by offering a swift testing service to staff in essential roles, they will be able to get back to work as quickly as possible, ensuring both their safety and that of the people they are working to support.”

FAQs for health and care workers on COVID-19 testing in mid and south Essex

Tributes to Dr Masson

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Dr Masson

Dr Kamlesh Kumar Masson
31st March 1942 – 16th April 2020

Remembering Dr Masson,

Thurrock CCG was sad to learn of the loss of Dr Masson who served as a GP in Thurrock for over 30 years and sadly lost his fight against Covid-19 on 16 April 2020.

Dr Kallil, fellow GP and Chair of NHS Thurrock CCG said:

“We were very sad to hear of the passing of Dr Masson, he was a well respected and liked GP in Thurrock, with a significant contribution over the last 30 years in the Borough caring for patients and providing support. Later he provided GP services in both Thurrock and Basildon. We extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr Masson for his commitment and passion and our condolences to his family for their loss.”

You can read a tribute from Dr Masson's family below.

Dr Kamlesh Masson came to the UK in 1973 after completing his medical training in India and working as a doctor in East Africa.

Although he worked across the UK in Ashby De La Zouch, Kings Lynn and other parts of the UK, the family settled in the locality of South Essex in 1975 where he established his career in General Practice.

Kamlesh founded Milton Road Surgery, Grays in 1985 and worked there continuously until 2017. He then went on to do locum work across Thurrock and Basildon until his last working day of March 12th 2020.

He was an excellent clinician who’s drive to constantly improve his clinical skills and knowledge with passion and enthusiasm will remain with us all as a reminder to always try to be the best. He was recognised in the locality by patients, colleagues and peers as a dedicated, determined, positive individual who would always do his utmost to help in all endeavours.

His thirst for knowledge was only seconded by his passion for his hobbies including cooking, clay-pigeon shooting and learning new languages.

Dr Masson was an honest, kind and generous man who was deeply respected by anyone who was privileged to cross paths with him. He was jovial, funny and kind, always wanting to make the best of any situation.

Dr Masson’s career came to unexpected end last month, when he unfortunately contracted Covid-19. This caused bilateral pneumonia requiring admission to Basildon Hospital on March 22nd and then University College London Hospital on March 31st 2020 (his 78th birthday).

Dr Masson fought bravely, but tragically lost his battle with Covid-19 on April 16th 2020.

Our lifelong thanks will go to the doctors and staff at University College London Hospital who fought tirelessly to save a Hero’s life.

Dr Masson was taken from us too soon and still had so much to give. He had practised medicine for over 5 decades and was a dedicated servant to the NHS for 47 years. He would have wanted to practice medicine for many more years to come.

He was a true gentleman who will be missed, but not forgotten.

Should you wish to leave a message or send your condolences, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who will pass on to the family.